the root of opportunity

the slogan 'stay in school' is not just grossly overplayed, it really doesn't explain anything. it is more like a command, 'here is what you must do. why you ask? don't ask just stay'. this revelation hit me as i walked the halls of my mothers K-6 school in Haines City, Florida (probably because it was plastered on a few walls). I was there for a 'release party' my mother called it, not a record. butterflies. we gathered the children around, songs were sung, lessons were given, and i had the duty of releasing them into the 'wild'. These kids were asked to stay but i wondered if they truly had any idea why.

that night i spoke at the community college i attended. afterwards i was asked to give a brief interview for the schools newspaper and one of the questions was 'do you think your education has had an impact on your career'. that's when my thoughts started flowing and i realized that it had not only everything to do with my career but with life.

education is the root of opportunity. the more education we receive the more doors that will be opened. its not about 'stay in school' or 'be cool stay in school'; i honestly think were selling it to ourselves all wrong! if you really want to see eyes opened and imaginations soaring then try explaining the numerous benefits of what higher education can do! try asking them to imagine the limitless empowerment that the future could hold. try explaining that they do not have to live out their parents lives, if only they would absorb and continue. its a daunting task, but its reality.

its not just about opportunity either, it has other lifetime implications as well. its about the ultimate defeat of racism. we as humanity 'fear the unknown,' and if we do not know or understand other races, cultures, religions, ideas, etc. then by NATURE we fear it. if we fear it then we mentally make an enemy of it, we avoid it, we label it so we feel in control or superior to it. want to end racism in your community? fight for better education. i would love to see statistics of non-high school graduates and then master degree students in percentage of those with racist tendencies. i think we would be floored by the fact that opening your mind and gaining an understanding of the world around us allows us to accept and even embrace others.

its not just about racism either... just yesterday i read an article in 'the week' stating the fact that people with higher education are less likely to get a divorce. relationally effects us.

its not just about opportunity, divorce, racism, etc. its about the development of you. its about reaching your potential as a human being. its about not having the questions of who could have i become if only i...

and i know what some of you are thinking, i don't think i am smart enough!: you are reading an online journal from the patron saint of middle school dropouts. honestly my grade point average hovers on a good day right around the number two. i worked so hard to get so little it felt. i was so jealous of my two younger brothers who never had to study and still made A's, meanwhile my ADHD brain was to busy thinking about some random etching in my desk about who loves who to even attempt to concentrate on what PIE equaled. in high school the guidance counselor took me in her office and asked me what vocational school i would like to sign up for (side note: there is NOTHING wrong with trade school!) and i even questioned myself if i could do that!

so after high school i did what most people who don't believe in themselves do, i got a job at the bottom rung of the ladder picking weeds at an amusement park. and i did this for awhile! day after day i would wake up at 5AM and run lawn mowers, or plant bulbs, or blow off sidewalks. but after a few months i realized that this couldn't be it, i looked at the men who had been working at this job for years and years and i knew i didn't want to be like them. this couldn't be it. this is not what i was meant to be.

i didn't gamble on the lottery, i didn't hope for someone to see my raw leadership talent and move me up to corporate amusement park management, i didn't even put in my resume in the food service part of the park... i applied for community college.

so i have a new slogans i would like to pitch and implement in the global educational community.

it is the only thing that separates you from where you want to be in 10 years.

do you really want to end up exactly like them? i mean really? exactly?

because people on the other side of the world don't all hate you.

because picking weeds really sucks at 5AM.


post script: my sister and i have always struggled with good grades, but she fought and fought. now she is enrolled in Florida State getting her Masters in Psychology, and i couldn't be more proud.


Tunafish said…
Very encouraging =) Thanks. Jesus loves you! =)
David said…
I graduate from college with my B.A. in Communications this week. From someone who has came from similar circumstances regarding learning disabilities...thank you for writing this!
punkeymonkey529 said…
Hey Stephen!

Thank you for this post,I graduated high school in 07 had a job right out of high school, after going to a trade school myself,and I feel I didn't learn enough from the school, but I was happy I graduated.The job was going okay for a while, but things changed for the worst quickly.I was fired from the job about a year after I got it,(bad management really,it's a long story)I haven't had another job since, and haven't started college.I was going to, but my grampa wamts to try and get to know me more(I haven't seen him since I was two,he's in Arizona,I'm in Ohio)

I am doing some volunteer work that I absoulty love.I was volunteering at the Humane Society, but stopped that volunteer job,(it got depressing at times, if a kitten was sick, and they had to put it down, my dog was sick, and almost thought we had to put him down, but he's fine now!)
I'm still volunteering at the bird sanctuary near my house though I love it, without a car(or my license for that matter) I don't get there as much as I would like to, but it's baby bird season and I can take care of them at my house( which is a lot more helpful than if I were to go there).

When I was in high school I was basically told that I wasn't going to make it into art classes though, thats why I was sent to the trade school, I would of been left with all study halls, and art classes. Well that's what I wanted, no one listened to me. I want to try and persue a career in art in some way. I love photography, but I also love writing. Since school really isnt' the road I can go down right now, between my brother, and having to help my mom as well it's tough. I've been working on it myself slowly,and I want to see what I am able to accomplish without school, and stil keep my hopes and dreams out there.
There aren't any jobs where I live anyways, it really sucks.

I'm sorry my comment was so long, but once I get into posting something I just write, and write.

Thank you,
Anonymous said…
Great post. I just started my master's degree in school counseling/school psychology and I couldn't agree more with the value of education and its necessity in getting someone to where they want to be. Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Diego said…
A very interesting blog, i think that education is underrated in states. I live in peru, a third world country, and i dont understand people that doesnt appreciate or doesnt take full advantage of the opportunity they have.For me, the number of dropouts in usa, its absolutely shocking. (sorry bout the english).
Susan said…
Education is the key to life as you say, but we have to remember that not everyone can make the most of it at 16 or 18. I was a late developer did my degree in my 30's, my masters in my 40's.
It is important that people are encouraged to develop at all ages... it is never too late to learn...
Sarah Joy said…
This is inspiring. I'm a high school
dropout and I'm Asian which is a shocker considering ppl here are sooooo education focused. But you're right. Education=opportunity. I guess it's not too late to pick up where I left off :) thanks for your encouragement!!
Anonymous said…
You couldn't be more correct... I'm always wondering, though, what we can do in society to put more of an emphasis and value on education. Is this something that only time and regret can do?
sui said…
at a time in my life (say, the last 10 years) that I have been questioning why I stay in school, continue to go to college just to get a degree... this gave me some very good reasons. inspiring. thank you, always.
Janelle said…
I went to college because it was the next logical step. It's what you're "supposed" to do. Now I'm about to take a summer class so I get some credits out of the way, my senior year starts in the fall, & I've learned so, so much. Not just in an academic sense, but also about people & the world around me.

Also, my grandparents were big on education. My grandfather especially wanted to see not just his kids go through college but his grandchildren, too. In a way it was the classic story of him wanting for all of us what he never had.

Everything in this post is completely true.
i completely agree that being in school helps you develop a sense of self understanding: as you learn more about the world and how it works, about men and women of the past and how they've contributed to our world today, i think that something inside us is molded into the person we've been made to be. thank you for this.
Daniel said…
Amazing commentary... Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to post such interesting and thought provoking material! I wish you posted more, but alas life doesn't slow down... it only speeds up.
offkey said…
Education opens door after door, window after window,and view after view. It provided answers to questions that that I didn't know I had, and led me to question even more in life.
I believe all routes of education are good, whether self-taught or formal, useful or thoughtful. A mind open to new ideas stays youthful, you don't have to accept them, just consider them.
Thanks for sharing, Stephen. I've never been an academic, but am considering graduate school, and this proved to be good food for thought.
Renny said…
Education is the solution to so many problems, yet it is the first thing to get cut. Then they wonder why our economy is falling apart, people are homeless, children are sold into slavery...
it all comes back to getting a good education.
Learning, it is so totally worth it.
Anonymous said…
Thank You, Stephen.
I just finished my junior year of high school, and this post inspired me to push myself even harder to go college. It's not going to be easy but it will be rewarding in the long run.
The Seeker. said…
WOW. As a current up-coming Junior in high school, that was amazing to read!! I must admit that I've had straight A's my whole high school career, but they're a result of hard work. I'm not shy about admitting that I'm a very driven individual. However, though driven, I often don't try things because I'm afraid to fail. I'm a perfectionist, and I hate admitting weakness. Recently I've seriously asked myself who I want to be in this world. Do I want to merely exist and live life stuck in an office? (Which, no offense to those who enjoy it, would be my personal version of hell.) Do I want to just live and die and make no impact whatsoever?! NO!! This summer, year, and rest of my life I'm pledging to myself to go after my dreams and take those risks. Is failure a possibility? Yes. But I've decided I'd rather try and fail at being exceptional than be a spectacularly mediocre human being. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but it does if you really thinka bout it. I'm done living in the shadows. To paraphrase the Tragedy of Julius Caeser, the brave die but once, but those who are afraid never truly live anyway! So learn all you can...Most things aren't even learned in the classroom! Be a student of life and you will be rewarded.
lillian said…
This was really eye-opening and encouraging. I am a straight A student and my GPA is probably one of the highest in my high school. However, I often question why I push myself so hard, besides the fact that I was born and raised to care so much about school grades. I find myself not caring about what I learn in school and only caring about the numbers and letters I receive, so THANK YOU so much for opening y eyes and making me see the real reason I push on and strive to be my best. Thank you for believing in all of us.
Em said…
Yeah. I was able to see this early in my high school career, thank goodness. I lost sight of it halfway through, and because my mum always pushed me to get to college, and because I knew that I had to go to college for better pay, I kept going. Of course, it's not about the money! But in a material world, the idea of being broke with no idea of what to do that I enjoy, I figured I could be comfortable while figuring out what I wanted to do.

Anyway. I like your "EDUCATION: because picking weeds really sucks at 5AM." That one's awesome! :D
mishal said…
i agree completely! i've always valued education and as a high school senior i value it even more now. i liked the facts about how it effects you socially, because of racism and divorce.
vanessa said…
the biggest problem we have is this view of "school isn't for everyone" to excuse laziness. sure, maybe you're not a genius who school comes easily to, but LIFE is for everyone, and in order to live said life you have to do certain things, like survive.
And i thank God every day that I get to go to college, because each day, my mind is opened just a bit more, and i see what good it does to everyone around me.
It's refreshing to see a person who became successful from a career that is not attained from school, value education.
Gretchen said…
Well said! As a high school teacher I try to convey this message to my students. Wish some of them would read this.
I know!! Education needs reform! We need to put our focus on what's really important, not just extracurricular activities. And students need a real drive to work harder. Great post!

I like your picture in the suit by the way. ;-)
Andrea said…
I'm pretty much a middle school drop out too.
I was home-schooled and my mom was too busy to actually teach me (not her fault at all) and I'm not good at self-motivation... but I'm almost freakin 19 years old and this reminded me I really need to hit the books. I have way too much to offer the world to be stuck washing dishes.
Andrea said…
I think Diego just taught us a lesson
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this personal aspect of your life with us. I think we all tend to forget that we're all part of the Human Race. From the person who picks up the Garbage every morning to the Queen of England, we're all the same!

This blog is a great tool to pass along!


Joey Macasero said…
Stephen you're awesome

Today I will remember reading this because today is the day I graduate high school. It's a reflective day with a whole lot of sentimentality going on. And I do agree with you that education has to be done in order to pursue something you want. For all accounts no matter how much I love them I never want to end up like my parents who have been working miserably and have been married to each other for 19 years. An education of some sort no matter who you are- a fashion designer, engineer, a writer. It is all necessary
Anna Alexithymia said…
I don't know how you do it. Every entry you write has some amazing deep meaning that EVERYONE can apply to their lives. You speak with such truth and honesty and frankly, it's no surprise that anberlin's music speaks directly to the heart.
This means a lot to me. I know I've got potential, but the idea of college and getting out in the world terrifies me. I don't want to be in a mediocre job in ten years. And as usual, you give me more hope and inspiration. Someday when you're touring Australia, stop by the Sydney Aquarium, and maybe you can see me, the marine biologist, feeding the sting rays.
Anonymous said…
Very,very true.In my opinion the frase 'stay in school' has a very negative connoctation attached to it.If you demand something of a teenager the alomost immediate response from that same individual will be "what dO I get out of this?" And sure everybody thinks they know why they are suppose to stay in shcool,but still, if any kid thinks of school his brain automaticaly channels to homework!And what kid realy likes homework?
But the way you delved into the positive side of school is way more inspiring than a simple "stay in school" and for that i thank you.You should go into marketing after you tire of the band!
Lis said…
I work in a middle school and I'm posting these up for my students to see:
it is the only thing that separates you from where you want to be in 10 years.

do you really want to end up exactly like them? i mean really? exactly?
Sarah K said…
aww good for your sister! thats amazing!
you inspire me (: i also did not get good to perfect grades in high school. im in my senior year in high school now and my GPA is exactly 3.0. maybe 3.1... but im ashamed of it because a lot of the kids in my school are smart. i guess there are a lot of kids who don't do so well too considering there's about 600-700 kids in my grade alone.
a lot of kids got into Ivy's and top schools this year, since the economy is so bad. they are so lucky! but i guess i can say im proud of my accomplishments too. im going to one of my state universities and planning to major in Education (to become a principal or a guidance counselor :])

-Sarah K
Anonymous said…
hey what's up. you are probably my biggest influence as a writer in many aspects. i love all your posts. i was wondering if you could check out my blog and maybe tell me what you think.
it would mean a lot and i think you may enjoy some of my posts. peace, love, god bless
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this post. It is very uplifting and refreshing. Congrats to your sister as well. I am also working on my Masters in Psychology, and it is no easy task. So Kudos to her!
This is exactly what needs to be said. I just graduated with my master's last week in journalism. I'm looking at teaching as a career choice because, truth be told, something more needs to be done.

More thinking like this, and we're on the right path. Thank you.
Katie said…
I completely agree that education here is promoted the wrong way - it doesn't help that it is the first thing to get cut when the budget gets tight. I am where I am today because I have an education - because I wasn't going to end up living exactly my mother (and grandmother's) life. What a lot of people take for granted is that education comes in many forms. While formal education was invaluable in my life, not everyone learns that way. Some of the smartest people I know didn't attend college, but they did study topics that interested them - they kept learning and growing. If you're not willing to grow and learn, you'll never really move forward.
lampala1203 said…
I do agree with every point that was made in this post. However,  I want to bring in another perspective. I am a 15 year old high schooler who worked way too hard this year. I didn't have time to get healthy amounts of sleep, eat healthy breakfasts, develop healthy relationships with my peers. In fact, it even blocked out my spiritual life a lot of the time. I wouldn't say I was "addicted" to work because I still hated it all the same. It was more like that I accepted the fate that was forced upon me by my pride, my abilities, and the nerve of my teachers to give such vast amounts of homework. One day my youth group was having a discussion about grades. One guy asked "Why do our grades matter? We'll all be dead one day anyway and it'll all have been meaningless." Most people told him to stop being depressing, but I agreed with him. In fact, that mindset was exactly what got me through nine straight months of stress. I've arrived at the conclusion that education is just like money or food: it's a necessity in this life, and God intends for us to make the best of it, but in the end it will be obsolete. This year I think the devil actually used it as a tool to keep me away from God. I know that education will only serve me well in this life, but I think all of us who are Christians need to look to God as the beginning, the present, and the end. 
miss lynn said…
You're right Stephen. There truly is no limit to what you can do. Sometimes you can even amaze yourself. :)
laura said…
its obvious that in america we dont realize this. recieving education isnt quick enough or convenient for us.
its extremely motivating to talk to people from other countries who have grown up studying 12 hours a day. its also motivating to hear that you and your sister have pushed through your struggles. it makes me wanna work hard. :)
Miss Heidi Mae said…
Hey Stephen,

My work is focused on creating environments where children can grow up healthy, resilient and with the best possible chance. You're on to something, CDC data shows that academic achievement is the number one indicator for adult health. Not just the absence of disease, but academic achievement plays into things like mental health, likelihood of incarceration, healthy relationships etc etc. The biggest challenge is convincing teenagers who could care less about tomorrow to think about the rest of their lives and stay in school. You're on to something with those slogans though.
Anonymous said…
Dear Stephen

I lOVE THIS! I posted the link to this on to of my favorite teacher facebook walls.

I also have learning disabilities and I have to say "While alot of my friends with learning disabilities have gave up I keep going." , But that's mainly because god has blessed me with a mother, serval teachers, and a whole lot of friends who would kill if I didn't.

Sincerely, Kenneth E. Frantz
Anonymous said…
I LOVE THIS. I posted the link on to of my favorite facebook walls
Layne said…
Fantastic. I never want to forget that there are places like Myanmar where the national literacy rate is 1%, that an education would mean the difference between abject poverty and a consistent, basic livelihood for so many. Every individual in the world whose life would be dramatically improved with basic education is another reason why I shouldn't complain about school.
Khanh Phat said…
Thank you for your share your information.
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